The Detroit Lions didn’t put on much of a show on Sunday against the Buffalo Bills. But with all of the injuries the Lions had in the week leadup to the game, it was an opportunity for some depth players to take advantage of their opportunities. While some—I’m looking at you, Mike Ford and Kerry Hyder Jr.—failed to take make the most of their playing time, there were a few unheralded performances from unlikely players.
Here’s a look at Sunday’s top performers, according to Pro Football Focus grading.
Here are the highest graded offensive players for the @Lions in Week 15 (min 15 snaps):— PFF DET Lions (@PFF_Lions) December 18, 2018
1. WR Kenny Golladay (@kgxix) - 90.5
2. G Kenny Wiggins (@KennyWiggins60) - 73.9
3. G Frank Ragnow (@KNARFWONGAR) - 71.4
4. HB Theo Riddick - 70.2
5. C Graham Glasgow (@gglasgow61) - 66.7
Kenny Golladay’s grade comes as no surprise. His performance against the Bills landed him on this week’s PFF Team of the Week.
“Golladay’s 5.21 yards per route run were just behind Aldrick Robinson for the highest by a wide receiver in Week 15,” PFF’s Brett Whitefield noted. Interestingly enough, most of Golladay’s work came from the slot, where he was lined up 42.9 percent of the time, per PFF.
Perhaps most notably, however, was the performance of backup guard Kenny Wiggins, who graded out as the best offensive lineman for Detroit. As we pointed out last week, Wiggins has been a bit of a weak point ever since he took over for an injured T.J. Lang. Sunday’s performance was a glimpse of why this coaching staff trusted him in backup duties.
As for Matthew Stafford, while he didn’t crack the Lions’ top five offensive players, his day wasn’t all that bad, mostly due to his success on deep throws.
“His 95 deep passing yards in Week 15 was the fourth-most by a quarterback,” Whitefield said. “He also earned a passer rating of 116.7, nearly 40 points higher than his deep passer rating of 77.1 through 14 weeks. His best throw was deep outside the left numbers, earning an 87.1 grade compared to sub 60 grades between the numbers and outside the right numbers.”
Highest graded defensive players for the @Lions in Week 15 (min 15 snaps):— PFF DET Lions (@PFF_Lions) December 18, 2018
1. DI Damon Harrison Sr. (@snacks) - 79.1
2. LB Christian Jones - 77.7
3. S Tracy Walker (@TracyWalkerIII) - 70.3
4. DI A'Shawn Robinson (@AshawnRobinson) - 70.1
5. CB Nevin Lawson (@nevin_lawson) - 69.3
So as we don’t take them for granted, let’s honor both Damon Harrison Sr. and A’Shawn Robinson for yet again cracking the top five, as they seem to every single week.
But let’s talk about Christian Jones for a minute. The Lions’ veteran linebacker has quietly been one of the better Lions defenders in the past month or two. Not only did his 77.7 grade nearly top the Lions defense this week, but look at this mind-boggling stat:
Since Week 8 - Lions Linebacker Christian Jones has been the 9th highest graded linebacker in the NFL (78.9 defense grade).— Brett Whitefield (@PFF_Brett) December 17, 2018
You would know this if you had Premium Stats 2.0 https://t.co/xwPJBrSsEu
While most of the attention this year has been on 2017 first-round pick Jarrad Davis, Jones has unceremoniously been the much better linebacker this season. This past offseason, the Lions signed Jones to a two-year deal. Though Detroit could save $3 million by cutting him this offseason (only $875,000 in dead money), Jones has been playing at a more than acceptable level for that price. Expect him to stick around next year, especially with the Lions’ numerous needs elsewhere.